Evaluating engagement

Evaluating engagement

There are plenty of metrics you can use for assessing brand advocacy, from clicks and views to likes and comments. Which should you try to measure?

How is brand advocacy measuring up for your organisation? The growing importance of both consumer and employee advocacy might be clear to you, but the most effective way of evaluating that engagement is a more difficult problem for many organisations.

There are plenty of metrics out there, but how can marketers really get to the crux of how effective advocacy is in changing consumer behaviour?

Getting the metrics right

According to Candace Lee, VP of audience management at consumer advocacy marketing firm BzzAgent, one challenge is determining if advocacy is happening for a brand and, if so, how and where advocates are sharing recommendations.

Marketers need to understand the bigger picture of what’s driving this, Lee says, so establishing the right metrics is vital: “In the age of consumers, advocacy is a media form, so advocacy metrics need to align with how the organisation measures the efficiency and effectiveness of other marketing efforts such as paid and owned. Another challenge is then finding the right tools and partners to measure and track the way the brand needs and wants to measure.”

The increasing complexity of the customer journey in a multichannel environment means that measuring simple metrics such as comments and likes is clearly not enough. Tom Lovegrove, head of planning, experience at Wasserman, says: “No single metric can accurately demonstrate the impact a marketing campaign has had on increasing advocacy. Any measurement system must not only be capable of evaluating a range of advocacy metrics, but also have the endorsement of clients and the wider industry. We advocate combining a range of existing metrics to give a detailed picture. These include usage and attitude measures such awareness, consideration and relevancy as well as net promoter score (NPS).”

Measuring these requires data to be evaluated on a ‘before and after’ basis, to observe how these are changing dynamically. “Quantitative measures often only give an idea of the number of people that are engaged,” explains Lovegrove. “While this is an important factor for evaluating the overall success, understanding the change in perception and behaviour of those people is more relevant. You can achieve this via in-depth surveys of a large enough sample group for each activation. It’s here where you’ll get the most useful data about brand engagement.”

Lee from BzzAgent agrees that marketers should be applying traditional media metrics to advocacy with some special advocacy-specific elements – including sentiment, conversation topics, engagement/participation levels among the advocates themselves and their influenced networks of friends and followers.

“Social listening tools are a great first start,” says Lee. “Most of the tools out there provide great visibility into the conversations that are happening, where they are happening and volume/reach of these conversations. Media measurement firms like IRI, Nielsen and others have applied media measurement methodologies (like ‘matched market testing’ and ‘marketing mix modeling’) to include advocacy programs so brands can understand the sales impact of their advocacy initiatives. 

“As advocacy becomes an even more critical component of marketing plans, internal analytic teams will be strong partners for brand marketers to help understand how existing media metrics can be applied to this new-ish media form.”

Using the right social listening tools is critical says Lee, so marketers can get a view into not only the conversations that are happening, but also the sentiment. This, she says, “helps inform what brands can be proactively asking advocates to talk about”.

Social listening – and more

Ben Osborne, director of insights, EMEA at global branding agency Siegel+Gale agrees that social listening is crucial, but believes that measuring effectiveness also requires an understanding of the context of the engagement between advocates and a wider audience before a campaign goes live: “The most accurate and effective measurement of real-life advocacy remains social media analysis; plotting branded mentions, impressions and sentiments over time. Furthermore, industry-standard measures like net promoter score have a role – as a quick and dirty, boardroom friendly, KPI.”

However, he says, it is also important to understand other dimensions before a campaign goes live – including who are your strongest advocates. “By running a segmentation of your customers and employees you can identify who your trusted ‘storytellers’ really are, as well as how to reach them and the tactics and strategies for engaging them.”

Osborne says it is important to understand what influences your audience so you can understand the context in which the advocacy is received: “By running a quantitative survey you will get the sharpest picture of what content or messaging will be most credible for your advocates, as well as revealing the drivers that could be used to build stature and influence in future.”

Jane Bloomfield, head of UK marketing at market research and media consultancy firm Millward Brown, agrees that getting behind the headline metrics is crucial to measuring the qualitative value of engagement: “While overall summary measures, like net promoter score, can provide a useful topline and remain fairly common in certain categories, we would generally advise looking at a number of metrics to explain the ‘why’ behind likelihood to recommend. These metrics should cover a mix of on and offline related measures, including satisfaction, advocacy, retention and warmth, alongside search and social data.”

Online trends are important to consider, says Bloomfield, as trends in search data for a brand will show changes in salience and levels of active consumer interest over time. “In social, long-term trends reflect changes in the talkability of the brand. Both are key indicators of advocacy, providing useful, but different information,” she says. “It is important to try to understand the relationship between all of these different indicators of engagement and how closely correlated they are with each other, before confirming the key metrics to track on an ongoing basis.”

Osborne says that while social media measures such as impressions/view or NPS offer a useful way of tracking the spread of a messaging through your advocates’ networks, other softer measures should be interrogated, including:

  • Amplification – the ratio of views to social shares, reflecting your brand’s social influence and credibility, and a strong measure of advocacy.
  • Conversation – the ratio of views to comments/replies, reflecting the degree of engagement your brand’s content/thoughts has on the recipients.
  • Appreciation – the ratio of views to likes reflects the value placed on your brand’s content/thoughts by the recipient.
Comparing metrics across categories

Applying the intelligence marketers can gain from evaluating engagement will depend on the interpretation of this data and, crucially, the context of sector or category being analysed.

Nonetheless, while the level of advocacy and its importance to buying decisions varies across categories of products and sectors, establishing consistent advocacy measures across all campaigns and categories is important, says Lee: “For a single brand marketing different products, having shared metrics allows the marketer to understand similarities and differences in campaign performance and similarities and differences in how brands ‘work’ in advocacy marketing.”

If you would like to find out more about measuring the impact of your marketing campaigns on brand advocacy, then check out our Brand Performance course. This one-day workshop aims to help you develop a formal and systematic programme of metrics in order to assess the performance of your brand.

Phil Lattimore Freelance Journalist CPL
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